Chocolate purchase doesn’t start in store

It's 3:16 pm on a Wednesday afternoon and the abnormally fast pace of the day has finally eased now that you know your director's plane is in the air.
Taking a de-stressing stroll through your building's lobby, you buy a Cadbury Dairy Milk bar, completely unplanned, tuck it into the palm of your hand, walk back to your office, and shut the door.

It’s 3:16 pm on a Wednesday afternoon and the abnormally fast pace of the day has finally eased now that you know your director’s plane is in the air.

Taking a de-stressing stroll through your building’s lobby, you buy a Cadbury Dairy Milk bar, completely unplanned, tuck it into the palm of your hand, walk back to your office, and shut the door.

Unwrapping the bar’s paper and foil packaging without tearing, you enjoy the creamy chocolate by breaking off each square and savoring each one at a time.

But what made you select a Cadbury Dairy Milk bar instead of something else? Other times, you may have run to the Second Cup, but not this time.

This time you wanted a quiet moment, a brief escape, for yourself and you chose to do so through the Cadbury chocolate experience.

A classic example of impulse purchasing.

Experiences like this represent approximately 65% of the purchase volume in the confectionery category, making it an important aspect for marketers to understand.

But what many companies don’t realize is that the impulse purchase doesn’t start in the store or at the point of purchase. By the time the consumer is in the store, the desire has already been planted.

Confectionery marketing is therefore most effective when it follows a two-prong approach planting the initial desire and activating that desire at the appropriate point to result in a purchase.

Planting the initial desire

Consumers make impulse purchases to satisfy an underlying goal or desire. In psychology circles, this is known as a goal for a hedonic good, to the rest of us, it’s a craving.

Cravings are all about emotion, an underlying desire or goal for a specific type of gratifying experience. In the Cadbury example above, what existed prior to the impulse purchase was the desire for a personal, intimate, escape. For this person, it was the chocolate experience, for someone else, it may have been the coffee experience.

For marketing to be effective at this point, it has to connect emotionally. When it does, it builds an association between utility of the product and the consumers’ gratifying experience.

One of the most effective confectionery ads I’ve reviewed was for Cadbury Dairy Milk. It was a TV spot featuring a woman sitting comfortably on the porch of a country home. Her hair blowing in a warm summer breeze as she enjoyed a Cadbury chocolate bar.

Contrast this to other ads that focus solely on product attributes like the number of peanuts or the use of nougat and it’s easy to see why the Cadbury ad was so much more effective. Consumers in the target audience could relate to the experience in the creative and as a result, it created the emotional bond.

The stronger this emotional bond, the easier it is to influence consumer selection at the store level. Strong emotional bonds create higher levels of confidence in consumers toward a product’s ability to deliver the gratification they’re seeking when making an impulse purchase.

Activating the craving;

Triggering the impulse purchase

The initial goal of gratification normally exists subconsciously. The role of in-store and near-store advertising is to activate that goal, creating the craving or desire that results in a purchase.

The best use of in-store advertising depends on how effective other marketing has been at creating an emotional association between product utility and the experience desired.

When the association is strong, often all that is required is proper eye placement of the brand and/or packaging.

Other techniques that work extremely well incorporate images that reinforce the consumer’s brand experience with a single glance. Impulse purchasing is emotionally based and images are the most effective means of captivating the consumer and communicating emotional experience.

Confectionery marketers can benefit a great deal by making the right investments in research to understand the strength and nature of the emotional experience associated with their brands. With a thorough understanding, all aspects of a brand’s market strategy can be more effectively managed. This includes everything from advertising, to pricing strategy, to channel management.

At the end of the day, just because the purchase may be at the last minute, doesn’t mean the marketing should be as well.

Otto Akkerman is vice-president of Decima Research in Toronto. He can be reached at oakkerman@decima.ca.